"The thing I learned the most from the Air Force is how to be a leader. I would say the military shaped me into the leader I am today."
Mitch Laney – Senior Procurement Officer at Jefferson Lab
Air Force – 1971-1992
Mitch Laney arrived at his friend’s doorstep and knocked. The plan was for Laney and his pal to go to the military recruitment center together and sign up for enlistment through the military’s Buddy Program. Except his buddy never came out. Laney was left with a choice: abandon the plan as well or go to the recruitment center solo.
“Son, if you wanna back out now, you can,” his father reminded him. Laney’s father, who served in the Army during World War II, was an inspiration to him. There was no way Laney was backing out.
He signed the paperwork to enlist in the the Air Force in 1971. Joining the military felt like an inevitable choice for Laney. He had a low draft number, so he knew he was going to go Vietnam anyway. He wanted to join on his own terms, in his preferred branch.
“Why walk when you can fly?” Laney laughed, when asked why he joined the Air Force.
In the Air Force, Laney started out as enlisted Aerospace Ground Equipment (AGE) Technician, where he was tasked with maintaining the ground equipment that supports aircraft systems. After his time as an AGE Technician, he cross-trained into the world of contracting and procurement, ultimately preparing him for his role at Jefferson Lab as the Senior Procurement Officer, where his team purchases major equipment fabrication and supplies, including magnets, cavities and cryomodules.
After beginning military life on the enlisted side, Laney wanted to further his expertise by receiving a commission through Officer Training School. During his military career, he began as a Technical Sergeant to a Commissioned Officer and retired as a Captain in 1992, where he gained writing and public speaking experience. He credits these communication skills as some of the most valuable tools he learned during his time with the Air Force.
“If you can believe it, I used to be bashful,” Laney admits. “The military gave me the confidence to speak to anyone. The military also helped me hone in on my leadership skills. The thing I learned the most from the Air Force is how to be a leader. I would say the military shaped me into the leader I am today.”
Laney shares that whenever he guides his team at Jefferson Lab, he thinks about a general leading his soldiers. He thinks of what it’s like to be a team leader. He recalls the camaraderie and the teamwork, and how those skills can be applied in civilian life.
“Ask my team,” he laughs about the comparison. “They’ll tell you.”
Thank you for your service, Mitch!
By Rebecca Duckett
The regional home of Jefferson Lab, Hampton Roads, has a rich military history. Located in Southeastern Virginia, the region is currently home to more than 80,000 men and women in uniform, representing every branch of the armed forces. Throughout November 2020, Jefferson Lab is celebrating the region's military ties by highlighting some of our veteran employees who have served in the armed forces and who continue to serve their nation by supporting the research efforts carried out at the laboratory.